The sky's no limit.
Eddie Uini knew something had to change. He’d seen too many people living rough on the streets of his South Auckland neighbourhood. They were going without the simple things most people take for granted - like a hot shower and clean clothes in the morning. So he got behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, and started to make a difference.
His first step was becoming part of Orange Sky. Founded in Australia in 2014 with the mission of providing free laundry and warm showers to the homeless, the for-purpose organisation now has 31 vans operating across that country. Eddie became their first team member across the Tasman.
Now, there's an army of 100 volunteers who give up their time each week in Auckland and Wellington to support those doing it tough - and their work wouldn’t be possible without the help of some Mercedes-Benz Sprinters, featuring their distinctive bright-orange wraps.
“A really important part of our model is being on four wheels. This means we can be responsive to the needs of the community,” Eddie says.
“We needed a high-roofed automatic that could handle a payload. We carry water and a generator onboard, so we need a van that can handle the weight and be reliable. The Sprinter 419 is perfect!”
While the interior space, wheelbase and carrying capacity of the Sprinter were exactly what Orange Sky New Zealand were after, Eddie had the vans modified to help his team of volunteers do their important work.
“We added in a floor, two washers, two dryers, a generator that takes diesel from the main tank, water heaters, water tanks and shower and basin. Then, we mounted solar panels and a water cooler on the roof,” he says.
There’s a third element to what this important organisation does, too. Beyond providing showers, and clothes washing and drying, their volunteers give those living on the streets something that many often go without - conversation. And that’s something Eddie couldn’t be more proud of.
“To be able to meet with our friends on the street and provide them with a safe place for conversation and connection means the world to me. Connection will always have a lasting effect, not just on our friends but also for myself and all our volunteers,” says Eddie.
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. Whether it’s through conversation, your time or even a simple smile, you never really know the impact a small act of kindness can have on someone’s day.”